Women’s Contributions to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Published on 1 February 2005

Ten years after South Africa’s successful transition from a state built upon the subjugation of its majority population to one based on democracy, its relatively peaceful process of transformation is heralded as a model to other nations. In particular, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliations Commission (TRC) is held up as an example of a transitional justice mechanism that was able to both establish a more complete or “truthful” historic record of the apartheid era and contribute to the healing of a nation and the reconciliation of former enemies, both individual and institutional.

South African Women – black and white – played significant roles in the planning, development and implementation of the TRC. Their participation as commissioners, staff and witnesses contributed to the success of the TRC and, ultimately, to South Africa’s transition.

This study documents the vital qualities that women brought to the process of transitional justice, through their testimonies at the TRC and through the positions they held while they served on the TRC. The study was conducted through the case study method of investigation. Researchers interviewed different categories of participants on the TRC, with special focus on women of diverse classes and races, and who played different roles. In additional to interviews, primary research was conducted in the TRC archives.


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South Africa

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